HARAR, Eastern Ethiopia.

I accessed Harar through Dire Dawa town, as there are no direct flights there. Dire Dawa is a 1.5 hr flight from Addis Ababa, and 2 hours from Harar on a public mini-van. My main interests in Harar were the Jegol wall, a couple of museums, and a visit to a traditionally decorated Harari house. I had previously visited the North and shared my experiences here.

Again, I only started looking for accommodation online after I arrived and stumbled upon Harar Ras hotel. I arrived at 6pm, settled in and quickly went to the reception to ask if they could get me a guide to take me hyena-feeding. Yes, you read that right.

The locals have hyenas so close to their hearts that, once a year they have a hyena-feeding holiday where they prepare porridge with lots of butter for the hyenas that roam the town at night. On any other day, one can still get a chance to feed the hyenas with a local guide who does daily shows.

Hyena feeding. The guide had a special chant for them and they would come for their meal-A special language between him and the hyenas, I guess.

After hyena-feeding, my guide took me bar-hopping until around midnight, when I got back to the hotel to the utter relief of the receptionist. “Where did you guys go? I called the guide 3 times and he didn’t answer. I was worried!” I re-assured her and answered, “To feed the hyenas.” She then held her waist akimbo like an African mother would and asked with a suspicious smile, “Only hyenas?” I burst out laughing and responded, “Only hyenas!” The guide was also subjected to prodding the following day…and the next (He was my guide throughout my Harar stay) and we laughed about it throughout my stay there. Nosy people!

One of the 5 gates of the Jegol.

Harar jegol wall, built between 13th and 16th century around a town. The wall was built as a defence in medieval times, an imposing 5m high and 3.5km long. The tour within the wall was good but I had to skip some sections. I have to admit that there’s a high level of poverty in Harar. It might be interesting/new to someone from the West but I did not fancy that part much.

Inside the Jegol. As in most ancient towns in hot areas, the streets are narrow. Think Old town Mombasa or Lamu.

A typical Harari house- heavily decorated with household items. There was a mini history lesson at the house-now a museum. Every member of the family had a position to sit in the house, dependent on gender, age and how many chapters of the Qu’ran one had read. The house had a second level upstairs that was reserved for newly weds.

I visited Ras Makonnen house (The residence of Haile Selassie’s father), the former residence of the famous French poet Arthur Rimbaud and a plantation up a hill where I tried khat chewing, a major pass-time of Harar people. It was too bitter for me though and I ended up spitting it out, regrettably- because you do not do that in the presence of a host. I opted for softer indulgences of the same leafy nature.

Ras Makonnen’s former residence- Haile Selassie’s father

Residence of the renown French poet (and trader) Arthur Rimbaud, which is now a museum.

Before the aborted mission of khat-chewing. They pronounce it ‘Chat’.

I hate to admit it, but besides the amazing people I met in Harar, and the rich history, I was constantly in disbelief at how dirty a town can be. I contrasted this heavily with Bahir Dar which was so green and clean. Harar is, without a doubt, the dirtiest place I’ve ever visited. I googled reasons for this and have a few hypotheses but I’ll let those stay in my head.

See you soon in Addis Ababa!



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